Deron Williams shocked the NBA world by signing a deal to play with a Turkish basketball team this season in the event the NBA lockout wipes out a portion of the schedule.
Could several members of the Phoenix Suns follow him overseas?
Few expect a mass exodus of NBA players to Europe or Asia for the simple fact that there are just not enough teams capable of paying the kind of salary it would take to attract an NBA player, and many of them that could would likely be unwilling to allow NBA guys to leave at a moment’s notice once the lockout is lifted.
However, if the lockout continues into the season it’s likely that at least a few more name players will join Williams overseas.
That list could include the most prominent Sun himself, Steve Nash.
Nash is as worldly as a star as they come and has business interests in China, including a shoe deal with Chinese company Lu You. Culturally he would fit in anywhere, and the journey and international experience could mean more to him than a hefty paycheck. Also, he’s unlikely to be sacrificing the kind of future paydays some other stars would in case of major injury since Nash has just one year remaining on his deal and has already pocketed the bulk of the money he will make in the NBA.
“I’d love to play overseas,” Nash wrote to The Arizona Republic. “It may be difficult with three kids but I’d love to do it.”
Added Nash’s agent Bill Duffy to the paper: “He’d be ready to roll. I’ve talked to him about it in the past. He’s a worldwide traveler and maverick. He’s committed to playing for the Suns but it’s not up to him. If it looks like the season’s going to be shut down, everyone’s going to be looking for work.”
Aside from the family issues playing so far from home, I wonder if Nash would even be able to play without Aaron Nelson and the warlocks by his side. I feel like the Suns’ vaunted training staff deserves lots of credit for Nash’s longevity, and I wonder what kind of physical issues he might encounter without the warlocks while playing in a completely different environment.
It’s anybody’s guess whether Nash will pull the trigger on an overseas deal, but according to international reports Marcin Gortat will be playing in Russia next season if the lockout continues. Eurobasket has reported that Gortat has signed with the Russian club Spartak Saint Petersburg. In fact, he’s listed on Spartak’s roster along with former Suns draft pick Dijon Thompson.
Like all NBA players, Gortat would be contractually obligated to return to the States when the lockout ends. If he’s able to work on his post game against real competition, this could end up being a real boon for the Suns (so long as he doesn’t get hurt, of course).
Then there’s Mickael Pietrus. His agent recently told The Republic that MP has an offer from a Turkish pro team and he’s still contemplating his options. If the money is right and he’s healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take it.
If any NBA player understands the risks of playing overseas, it would have to be the man who went abroad during a time of labor peace, Josh Childress.
After his experience playing two seasons for Olympiakos in Greece, Childress told ESPN’s Ric Bucher he would not consider returning to Europe.
“No, I wouldn’t,” he said. “And I don’t know why guys would. I understand that guys really want to play. But you sometimes have to look at what you have and treat this as a business. The only way I could see it making sense is if you’re a player from a particular country going back. But for an American player with a good-sized guaranteed deal here, I can’t see why you’d do it.”
It’s likely most of Childress’ American teammates (and American leaguemates) heed his advice, and besides there are only so many spots available for players that are not natives on international teams.
However, there’s one more Phoenix Sun that could be a candidate to play overseas and that’s Vince Carter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him find an international home even if the players and owners agree to labor peace.